All impactful marketing starts with listening to someone else’s story. The story told by the people you want to assist. You cannot begin to shape a narrative around your offering if you don’t first acknowledge the pain that they have.
That pain is usually existential. I want to be recognized. I desire to be understood. I demand revenge. I want to reconnect with a part of me that I fear is lost.
Your offering fits that need. Your graphic T-shirts featuring philosophy quotes afford people a way to express their inner selves. The ancestry.com kit gives them a way to understand their place in the world. Your pasta sauce reminds them of their childhood.
But you must first hear their story. They may be reticent to share it, especially if it is based in shame. I don’t want people to know that I have fertility issues. I’m embarrassed by my acne.
I don’t want people looking at me in this state of homelessness I find myself in now. That is story that I perceived as I walked by a park near my office. You can start to think about your business by listening to the stories of everyone you meet. Even just people who are telling their story without words.
Hear the others.
The lobby of the PR firm I worked for in Los Angeles in the 1990s was vast. The elevator opened into an endzone-sized, marble tiled space with a single receptionist ensconced behind a chrome and glass desk that could seat six comfortably. There were minimalist touches -- few white leather couches and abstract art. It communicated “we are so powerful that we can dedicate pricy square footage to simply make a statement.”
The environment where you meet your client, the setting where transactions are done, the space where your offering is delivered is a critical element. It communicates your intent.
It is also true of the story you are telling. The story you are telling the people that you want to serve. The backdrop against which your story unfolds sets a tone. It creates a mood.
Think of the 1988 film “Die Hard.” Our hero’s goal is to reconcile with his wife on Christmas eve. That intentional choice of setting the story during the holiday season raises the stakes. John McClane shows up at his wife’s office Christmas party just as terrorists take her and others hostage. Everything plays out against this backdrop. And so in my mind I associate it as a Christmas movie. And I’m not alone.
The upshot is that you can dictate how your target audience receives your message by choosing the right setting. Be intentional about it.
Mario Fogg lowered his block-rimmed eyeglasses at me with a quizzical look. “I was at the gig last Friday night downstairs,” I explained, “great show.” I’d spotted Mario at a reception at my workspace on Auburn Avenue. His jazz trio, anchored by his drumming, had performed John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” to an intimate group shoehorned into a space that by day was a modest coffee shop.
In our conversation Mario shared his views that music is, at its core, a way to exchange ideas. That regardless of your background, culture, mother language, ethnicity or gender music provides a universal platform to express a thought. To convey an emotion. He explained that every performance was one-of-a-kind even if it was the same piece that he’d played a hundred times before. That he brought whatever was happening to him at that time – his hopes or disappointments or euphoric energy – to that moment in time. That split second his sticks hit the drum skin.
It is the same with the story you tell. The emotion that runs through your communication is what your audience will respond to. They want to be reminded of Coltrane because that is what you promised to play. But you must deliver your own take on it. Dig into the emotions that drive you to do whatever it is that you do. Bring that to every conversation, every touchpoint and every time you interact with your client or customer.
The music is not in the drum kit
I have a variety of interests and enjoy sharing my reflections on them here.